Posted tagged ‘Will Jawando’

01.30.18 Sierra Club goes cynical

January 30, 2018

Bethesda Magazine reported yesterday Sierra Club’s endorsements of Roger Berliner for county executive, as well as of Hans Riemer and Will Jawando for County Council At-Large. I have previously written about Berliner’s poor environmental record (aw c’mon – his support for a fossil fuel divestment bill only came after he helped gut it of its substance!). I have also written numerous times about Riemer’s and Jawando’s lack of any substantial accomplishments for our county.

(Note: I may not endorse them myself, but I have no substantial objection to SC’s endorsements of Evan Glass and Danielle Meitiv for At-Large.)

What is clearly going on here is that Sierra Club has cynically calculated whose backs it needs to scratch (because they are potential winners?), rather than prioritizing the candidates who are most likely to push an environmental agenda.

This is not the first time Sierra Club has disgusted me. In 2011, I wrote about how they deluged me with postal pollution because I made the mistake of supporting them financially. Check out that post for a partial list of environmental organizations that are actually worthy of support.

We now know everything we need to know about Sierra Club. I urge all environmentalists in the county to cut ties with this cynical group.

©2018 Keith Berner





12.22.17 Thirty-plus at-large candidates in MoCo? How to choose?!

December 22, 2017

Bethesda Magazine reports today that a 30th candidate has filed to run for one of four at-large seats on the Montgomery County Council in next June’s Democratic primary election (which, given the overwhelming Democratic majority in the county, is the only election that matters). How is any moderately informed voter to sort out this crowd?

(Political activist Paul Bessel maintains a constantly updated list of candidates here. His list, which includes some who are only rumored to be in the running, currently totals 40 for the at-large race.) 

It will be impossible for any of us to get to know all the candidates, so some shortcuts for winnowing down down the large list could be helpful. Here are my criteria:

1. Has the candidate filed for public financing? Under Montgomery County’s new campaign-finance law, candidates qualify for public matching funds by raising a sufficient quantity of small (up to $150 each) contributions from county residents to reach a sufficient quantity of total dollars raised. In my view, any county candidate not accepting public financing is ipso facto endorsing corrupt pay-to-play politics where wealthy interests purchase the county council they want. In MoCo, the development industry has been throwing around $4,000 contributions for years, which has resulted in our pave-it-all politics.

2. Is the campaign viable? To qualify for matching funds in the at-large race (there are different thresholds for county exec and district races), candidates must receive 250 individual contributions totaling at least $25,000. So far, only five of the 30 candidates have actually qualified (out of 22 who have indicated intent to qualify). I suggest that candidates who have not qualified for public financing by January 17 (when campaign finance reports are due) might not have the public support to merit serious consideration. (If that date strikes you as too early, set your own!) Of course, there could be some campaigns that fall a bit short, but seem to have momentum.

3. If the candidate is currently in public office, how have they done? Hans Riemer is the only incumbent in the at-large race. His tenure has been marked by exaggeration, obfuscation, footsie with the developers, and a lack of issue gravitas.* Don’t support him.

4. Where does the candidate fall in the county’s great divide: developers vs. everyone else? I’m not anti-development, but I am firmly opposed to the industry’s outsized, overwhelming dominance of our politics. The current council already includes a majority that is wholly in developers’ pockets and we don’t need any more of these. Besides Riemer, the most viable candidate who may fit into this category is Evan Glass. I like Glass enormously, but his last campaign was developer-aligned and I see no indication that he regrets that choice.

5. Has the candidate ever offered public or community service in the county? I don’t know everyone’s records, but one “bad guy” stands out: Will Jawando is running his fourth race in four years, but seems never to have done anything for county residents other than litter our yards and mailboxes with his publicity.

6. Diversity, diversity, diversity. In this #metoo and #blacklivesmatter era, there is no excuse for putting four white men in at-large seats in liberal MoCo. Even if it’s these guys who are catching your attention, you owe it to everyone to look harder for candidates who don’t look and sound the same as the current power structure. Reducing the power of white men is a long-term project that requires our attention at the local level.

I have already made one endorsement in the race: Seth Grimes (a white guy), because I know his record so well from his years of public and community service in Takoma Park. I am intrigued by several other candidates, but – as you might expect – I know only a small percentage of those running. I’ll be watching and listening closely in coming weeks and months. I hope you do, too.

*Please enjoy my previous comments about Riemer  just type his name into the search box on this site. Or, go directly to one of my favorites.

©2017 Keith Berner


08.12.17 Will Jawando can’t even keep track of what office he’s running for!

August 12, 2017

Will Jawando, who has announced his candidacy for MoCo council at-large, is running his fourth campaign in three years (without ever having done anything for this community). No wonder he can’t keep track of what he’s running for. Thanks to Seventh State for catching this.










07.10.17 MoCo Politics: Endorsing Elrich & Grimes, plus early musings on the 30+ at-large candidates

July 10, 2017

Marc Elrich is running to be Montgomery County’s next executive to replace Ike Leggett. I have known Elrich since I moved to Maryland in 2000, as a friend, neighbor, and as a member of the Takoma Park City Council (where he served for 19 years) and then the Montgomery County Council (12 years). Elrich is the least ego-driven politician I have ever met. He is not enamored of seeing his name or face in lights or of power for its own sake, but rather gets out of bed every day in order to make a better world, especially for the underdogs. Elrich is also the least corrupted politician in Montgomery County, having consistently refused to take contributions from the politically dominant development industry. While he is able to meet respectfully with all players in county affairs, Elrich is the only member of the council who has consistently prioritized community needs over industry interests.

Further, Elrich is one of the most intelligent and informed public leaders we have. His encyclopedic knowledge of zoning, public education (he was a MCPS teacher for 17 years), and other arcana means he is as prepared to govern as anyone.  You can count on Marc Elrich to support anti-poverty programs, affordable housing, mass transit, quality of life, and the environment. Please join me in helping make Elrich our next county executive.


County Council At-Large

Talk about crowded fields! Local activist Paul Bessel has been collecting the names of declared and interested candidates for the four Montgomery Council At-Large seats in 2018. Here is a list he posted on Facebook last week:



There are a few inaccuracies on this list*, but you get the idea: over 30 candidates plan to go for the glory, competing against only one incumbent (Hans Riemer).

In this field, Seth Grimes stands out. I have observed over the past 15 years as Grimes has evolved from a Takoma Park gadfly (when he quite rightly called out the city government for poor management) to a wise contributor on public affairs locally and beyond. As a member of the Takoma Park City Council, Grimes got to know well the people and processes of Rockville. His policy line is consistently progressive, from anti-poverty (he serves on the board of Shepherd’s Table) to the environment. He is also one of three visionary founders and leaders of the Takoma Park Mobilization, formed in mid-November to counter the Trump agenda and now including over 1,000 activists. Like Elrich, Grimes is a smart and extremely well-informed student of local politics. Running for the council is a logical step for Grimes – his level of preparation and commitment to progressive values distinguishes him among the dozens of other candidates. I am proud to endorse Seth Grimes for county council.


I don’t recognize most of the names on Bessel’s list and encourage them to introduce themselves to me via an email to

I have recently met some of the candidates in the context of progressive politics, such as the Politics 101 workshop sponsored by Our Revolution and Progressive Neighbors in May. This list includes (in alphabetical order): Julian Haffner, Danielle Meitiv, and Chris Wilhelm. I can see that these three are explicitly progressive, but I don’t know any of them well enough yet to declare early support for them.

Rebecca Smondrowski currently serves on the school board and has a good reputation among progressives. I’m also eager to learn more about her.

Diana Conway has been an influential progressive activist, which makes me wonder why her husband, Bill Conway is running, instead of her. I wouldn’t blame one spouse for the other spouse’s opinions or work, but neither will I automatically give Bill credit for Diana’s. Count this as another candidacy I’m intrigued about.

I know Cherri Branson’s name from her brief tenure on the Council in 2013-14, when she took the place of Valerie Ervin as the District 5 rep, after the latter got bored with the job and quit. Unfortunately, what most struck me at the time was Branson’s endorsement (along with Ervin) of the eminently unqualified and ethically challenged Chris Barclay to take the seat in 2014. I have heard good reviews of Branson’s work on Leggett’s staff since then and am open to learning more to overcome that first impression.

Evan Glass is a smart and nice guy. But he chose to run for D5 in 2014 as a Chamber of Commerce candidate, backed by all the big developers. There was also an arrogant tinge to his campaign that turned me off (he claimed that the transit center debacle woudn’t have happened if only he had been on the council). Since that time, Glass has led the Silver Spring youth education organization Gandhi Brigade: noble work, indeed. As with Branson, my mind is open to being reintroduced to Glass this time around.


Candidates to oppose. . .

This blog has devoted considerable attention to Hans Riemer — I encourage you, Dear Reader, to search on his name in order to relive all the highlights. For those less hardy, here’s the summary of Riemer’s service to the county

  • began running for office before the paint was dry in his first Maryland domicile (following his move here from California in late 2005)
  • has used empty rhetoric to sound progressive, without actually leading on progressive policy
  • has championed relatively lightweight issues
  • has been less than forthright about his intentions and his record.

Riemer has never added up to much substantively. Yet, in 2010, he succeeded in deceiving experienced activists and naïve voters alike, with his pretty face, California cash (caché?), and ad nauseum repetition of the word “progressive.” Now we have another chance to show Reimer the door; voters would be fools not to take it.

Will Jawando certainly loves campaigning, joining his fourth contest (the other three were losses) since 2014.** Other than being a candidate, though, Jawando seems never to have done anything much for the community or the county.  Jawando is a smart and engaging fellow. He just doesn’t get that paid public service should be less a pursuit of personal glory, than the culmination of a previous do-good record – something earned, not acquired.


Public Financing

As I learn more about county council candidates, I will look favorably on those who opt-in to public financing and unfavorably on those who self-finance (in effect, seeking to purchase their seat) or who rely on $4,000 checks from special interests (including from the development industry or public-employee unions).

I learned today on the Seventh State Blog, that Conway and Riemer have qualified for public financing.


*The three from Bessel’s list whom I know or believe are not running for At-Large are Ukaih Busch (who has said so publicly), Bill Cook (who has declared for the D1 seat), and Jill Ortman-Fouse (who seems to have opted to remain on the school board).

**Jawando has previously run for MD D20 state delegate (2014), Congress from MD D8 (against Jamie Raskin, 2016), and for appointment to the D20 house seat that opened when Will Smith was appointed to Raskin’s seat in the state senate (2016).

©2017 Keith Berner




01.06.17 Lorig Charkoudian for D20 Delegate

January 6, 2017

Jamie Raskin’s election to Congress in November kicked off a chain of events: first the need to fill his seat in the Maryland Senate and then, when sitting delegate Will Smith was appointed in Raskin’s place, the need fill that seat. The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee (MCDCC) will make that appointment this coming Monday, January 9. To influence their selection, please write to all their members (see below) before Monday evening.

Last night, I attended a candidate forum in Silver Spring, sponsored by the MCDCC, Progressive Neighbors, and other organizations. The forum was an opportunity for six candidates to make their cases. (Information about five of the six candidates can be found on the MCDCC website – Yvette Butler is inexplicably missing.)

The good news is that D20 has some great talent ready to serve: five of the six candidates would most likely do a fine job in the role (and the sixth might stand out in a less talented field). And all of them have a clear record of community service (something that has been sorely lacking in recent local candidates for office (e.g., David Trone, Kathleen Matthews, and Will Jawando).

Lorig Charkoudian was the clear winner last night. She was the most articulate of the candidates, able to respond quickly and clearly to everything tossed her way, with barely an “um” to be heard. What was most impressive about Charkoudian was her wealth of experience writing and promoting legislation (she is clearly the hit-the-ground-running candidate). She also was able to address, with specifics, topics well beyond her core expertise in criminal-justice reform and conflict mediation, things like environmental legislation, food security, and economic justice.

Jheanelle Wilkins, gets an honorable mention. She also has legislative experience, is able to articulate her positions clearly, and displayed knowledge across range of policy topics. Unfortunately, Wilkins is a member of the very MCDCC that will make this appointment. This represents an unacceptable conflict of interest. In fact, I intend to push publicly for the Central Committee to bar its current members from seeking office in the future.

Also, I was disturbed by Wilkins’s willingness to throw marijuana legalization under the bus unless the licenses for medical marijuana growers are distributed more fairly (i.e,. awarding licenses to one or more African American firms). I agree with her that the licensing process has been discriminatory (and embarrassing), but holding something good hostage to the repair of something bad is nuts. Would Wilkins be more devoted to such games of chicken than to policymaking?

Darian Unger also has some experience in drafting and pushing legislation. His service with Progressive Neighbors and as a volunteer firefighter is impressive and there is no question about his desire to serve. Just the same, his expertise seems narrower than some of the others, focusing mostly on the environment and civil liberties (topics dear to my heart). Unger seems to get easily tongue tied (I have heard him speak several times) and has a bothersome tendency to cross from policy advocacy to self-promotion. (This is a subtle point and I would understand if others found it less disturbing than I do.)  Just as in the case of Wilkins’s service on the MCDCC, I will be disturbed if Progress Neighbors endorses Unger.

Daniel Koroma and Yvette Butler impress with long records of passionate community service. But in comparison to the others, they seem less prepared to enter the legislative fray and less knowledgeable across a range of issues. I’m also a stickler for candidates’ abiding by the time limits set in candidate forums. Butler’s opening statement was past the 2-minute mark and seemed far from complete when she had to be asked to cease several times before complying. This being the second forum in as many days, one would think she would have learned in the first session and edited her statement, accordingly.

Amy Cress is the least prepared of the of the bunch and seems solely focused on gun control and special-needs education.

Three of the candidates knew me prior to getting into this race: Charkoudian, Unger, and Wilkens. Of these, only Charkoudian asked for my support. I count this against the other two, not because my ego needs that kind of stroking, but rather because an essential legislative skill is the ability to recognize and mobilize supporters. If candidates fail to ask for support when they are running, I wonder whom they will forget to call once they are in office. (To be fair, Wilkins only knows me from my letter to the Central Committee last month regarding the senate appointment. The fact that she responded to me then is a plus; the fact that she didn’t keep my contact info or note that I’m an activist worthy of being cultivated is a minus.)

Final note: I don’t know why, but candidate forums seem always to be poorly managed. I remember when a moderator at a Democratic Party forum few years ago thought it would be a good idea to measure time limits using an analog kitchen timer (rather than digital means). I’ve seen Progressive Neighbors fail more than once to set up coherent processes for Q&A. The big failure last night was having the moderator pose three questions at a time (in multiple rounds) to the candidates and giving each candidate only one minute to answer – and, sometimes, the three questions had nothing to do with each other. Not a single candidate was able to address all three questions every time and the audience was cheated out of more thoughtful replies by the candidates.

I suggest that no organization should sponsor or moderate candidate forums without serious forethought and talented moderators.

Please write to all members of the MDCC to support Lorig Charkoudian (I have omitted Wilkins from this list for obvious reasons). You do not have to write an essay – simply stating your view is enough. Here’s the list to write to:

@2017 Keith Berner


12.04.16 David Moon for D20 Senate – deadline is December 7 to contact Central Committee

December 3, 2016

Maryland District 20 voters are thrilled to be sending Jamie Raskin, to Congress to take on the Trumpian forces of darkness. Raskin’s elevation leaves a senate vacancy that will be filled by a decision of the Montgomery Democratic Central Committee (MDCC) when they meet on Wednesday, December 7.

It is unfortunate that state law does not allow us to directly elect Raskin’s replacement: any appointment process is not exactly (small-d) democratic, but this is the process we’re stuck with. It seems to me that the most democratic solution would be to appoint someone who has already won D20 votes, namely one of our three elected state delegates. David Moon and Will Smith are actively campaigning for the seat (while Sheila Hixson has, unsurprisingly, decided to hold on to her chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the House of Delegates). Both Moon and Smith have had impressive records as freshmen delegates. Both are strong progressives and have worked well with Hixson and Raskin.

I am endorsing Moon for Senate mostly because I see him as a determined progressive fighter in Raskin’s tradition, while Smith is somewhat more of a go-along-to-get-along Democrat that is more common in the MD legislature. Also, I have been significantly more impressed with Moon’s responsiveness to and engagement with district residents than Smith’s. (Smith has made several appointments to meet with me and broken every single one at the last minute.)

I urge you to write to all members of the MDCC immediately to indicate your endorsement. See below for more details.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the issues Moon has taken on:

  • Special elections to fill statewide vacancies: Just as D20 voters are frustrated by the lack of a chance to vote on Raskin’s replacement, so would we be if there were vacancies for US Senate, Attorney General, Comptroller. Under law, the governor would have had the right to name replacements, but Moon successfully got the issue on this year’s ballot (as Question 1) and it passed easily, meaning future vacancies will be filled by voters.
  • Helping homeless residents obtain birth certificates
  • Reining in mass incarceration and generally opposing the disastrous “war on drugs”
  • Early release of sick inmates
  • Protecting women’s pay equity
  • Reforming the investigative process in cases of police brutality
  • Reducing carbon emissions
  • Promoting transparency in rape investigations
  • Working to welcome refugees in Maryland
  • Fighting to maintain Metro service hours.

An argument has been floated that neither Moon, nor Smith should be appointed because it would give the selected individual incumbent power in the 2018 election. Those touting this position claim it would be more democratic to appoint someone for a two-year period who has not ever won an election in our district. I don’t buy it – as imperfect as the current system is, I believe the only way to respect voters is to select someone they have already supported.

If Moon or Smith is selected this week, that will open a D20 seat in the House of Delegates and the MDCC appointment process will start all over again. The following people should not be considered for that seat:

  • Valerie Ervin quit her last public office (MoCo Council D5) two years early because her ambition and arrogance led her to believe she would be a shoo-in for the county executive race (Ike Leggett’s decision to run again in 2014 killed her plans). Then she dropped out of an abortive race against Raskin for Congress after only two months, with a bitter attack on a political process she felt was uniquely stacked against her. She blamed everyone but herself, while a healthy number of other candidates made it all the way to April. Ervin has a record of anger and divisiveness, including a willingness to attack local progressives. If Ervin were appointed to represent us, we could count on her spending most of her time in office figuring out how to move up the political ladder.
  • Will Jawando has run twice for local seats (for state delegate in 2014 and against Raskin for Congress), losing badly each time. He has never done any on-the-ground work in our area and seems to think that his brief service as a White House staffer makes up for having no local record. I’d love to see Jawando work on something that benefits district residents before he tries again for political office.
  • Jonathan Shurberg is a very capable local lawyer who has done a ton of work for progressive causes and individuals in need. Just the same, he must have set a record for dollars spent per vote in his unsuccessful race against Moon and Smith for delegate in 2014. I endorsed his run at that time, but he did so badly in the final result that any appointment to office would be in violation of district voters’ clear preferences. Most recently, Shurberg used his blog to attack Raskin’s candidacy for Congress, while carrying water for megabucks, pro-corporate Kathleen Matthews and David Trone.

Please write to all members of the MDCC to support David Moon and to oppose appointment of anyone who has not previously been elected in our district. You do not have to write an essay – simply stating your view is enough. Here’s the list to write to:

©2016 Keith Berner





04.27.16 Schadenfreude (election wrap-up)

April 27, 2016

Before I go negative, I want to acknowledge Jamie Raskin’s extremely important victory yesterday. His win not only sends a substantively excellent man to Congress. It also demonstrates that – at least in this district and this year – money can’t purchase victory. Passion, vision, and grassroots organizing won the day. Everyone in MD-8 can be proud of this result!

Now to my Schadenfreude* list:

  1. Washington Post: Both the editors and MoCo political correspondent, Bill Turque, did their best to discredit Raskin as a left-wing extremist. It’s downright fun to annoy the big-business-obsessed Post by voting for progressives who scare them.
  1. David Trone: The man spent over $12-million to sully the electoral process in our district, after he went around the country delivering over $150k to right-wing Republicans in order to “buy access” (his words), ala Donald Trump. It’s sad to think that he didn’t bankrupt himself in the process of this campaign, but one can hope he’ll never try this again.
  1. Kathleen Matthews: Without a public-policy or community-service background, this corporate shill became the most heavily PAC-funded congressional candidate in the country. After having overseen Marriott’s opposition to labor and $1-3/4 million in contributions to Republicans, Matthews tried to play on her husband’s connections (Chris Matthews is the star of Hardball) and her gender to steal our district. Her distant third-place finish should send her right back to the corporate world.
  1. Jonathan Shurberg of Maryland Scramble: The overwhelming majority of Shurberg’s posts are “just the facts”: links to primary sources, scans of candidate mailings, and the like. These are generally offered without commentary and make Scramble is a very useful blog, indeed. It’s the less frequent commentary that deserves criticism. In this race, Shurberg:
  • Excused Matthews’s and Trone’s lack of legislative background by pointing out that lots of members of Congress don’t have any (and what a great job they’re all doing, eh?). In defending the two moneybags, he also purposely ignored opponents’ arguments that neither had any background of public service.
  • Declared the money from one’s pockets or from corporate PACs to be no dirtier than money raised in small dollar amounts from inside Maryland and our district. Shurberg went after Matthews’s opponents for citing the difference and, thereby, demonstrated a (newly found?) love of big money in politics.
  • Forgave Matthews’s responsibility for Marriott contributions to GOP candidates and office holders
  • Explained away Matthews’s money from Hardball guests
  • Repeatedly attacked Raskin and his supporters in a tone that can only be described as mocking, gleeful, and morally superior. It is well known the Shurberg has never forgiven Raskin for the 2014 state delegate race, when Raskin didn’t endorse Shurberg. It was still remarkable that Shurberg couldn’t suppress his contempt borne of personal hurt.
  • Huddled with Kathleen Matthews during the entire J Street annual gala last week.

Clearly Shurberg wanted Raskin not only to lose, but to be embarrassed. He seemed to want Matthews to win (he certainly found ways to excuse nearly everything about her that progressives objected to) but wasn’t honest enough to come right out and endorse her. If Shurberg used to be a progressive, he sure sold out those values in this race and most likely did so in a fit of personal pique. The Progressive Neighbors Steering Committee should take note and remove him from their membership.

  1. The giant PACs and bigwigs who funded Matthews’s campaign: Money down the drain. Hah-hah! (sound file)
  1. Emily’s List: Sorry, gender isn’t everything. I get why Emily’s list doesn’t fund men. But they ought to be selective about the fights they pick. This year in Maryland, their outsized support of Kathleen Matthews and Donna Edwards put them on the wrong side of two men (Raskin and Chris Van Hollen) who have impeccable records on women’s issues. Again, money down the drain. And – in this case – money that could have better used elsewhere.

I’m really sad about how poorly Kumar Barve did in yesterday’s election (a little over 2%). In a race where all the oxygen was not sucked up by Trone and Matthews, this serious, accomplished legislator would have gotten a lot more attention. I still would have endorsed and worked for Raskin, but Barve was my clear second choice and I hope he will continue serving the public good. (I also feel sad for Ana Sol Gutierrez [5.5%], another good person.)

I can’t quite put Will Jawando (<5%) on my Schadenfreude list, because he’s not a bad guy (except for that Big Pharma money he took). But it would be nice if he would do some work in our area before he decides to run for another seat (he ran for state delegate in 2014 and lost badly). Simply having a story that is superficially similar to Barack Obama’s doesn’t really qualify him for office.

Final comment: If one accepts the probability that Trone and Matthews were fighting against each other for the same set of pro-business, moderate Democrats, we can thank Trone for helping Raskin win.

*My writing Schadenfreude with a capital “S” is not a symptom of the widespread disease I call “Random Capitalization Syndrome”; rather it is true to German grammar, where all nouns are capitalized. For more random linguistic tips or a dose of severe grammatical discipline, feel free to contact your blogger any time.

©2016 Keith Berner